Lasciviousness – What is it?
The word "lasciviousness" is an old English word used six times in the King James Version of the Bible. A brief look at the six passages in which it is used can demonstrate what the word means in today's language.
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Mark 7:21-22(KJV) states, "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness." Modern translations instead use the word "debauchery." It is a translation of the Greek aselmeia meaning debauchery, unbridled lust, or excess.
Second Corinthians 12:21(KJV) states, "my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed." A different form of the same Greek word is used, again referring to debauchery.
Galatians 5:19(KJV) notes, "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness…" Some translations use "depravity" here to show that the emphasis is on sinful living.
Ephesians 4:19(KJV) adds, "Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." Again, the same Greek word is used and "debauchery" or "depravity" can be used in modern English.
First Peter 4:3(KJV) shares, "For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries…" The theme of depravity or a general sinful lifestyle is clear in this context. Interestingly, Peter included himself in this verse, sharing an insight on how he viewed his life before following Jesus Christ.
Finally Jude 1:4(KJV) teaches, "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." The ESV translates this word as "sensuality" in this context, showing that these ungodly people referred to by Jude were turning God's grace into an excuse to live in sin.
Based on this study, lasciviousness was a word used in the King James Version to translate into what is now usually known as debauchery, sensuality, or depravity. The Bible clearly speaks against this type of behavior and focuses instead on calling believers to live holy and pure lives for the Lord.
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